Late last week Apple denied distribution through the App Store for an iPhone version of Podcaster an application that allows you to subscribe, manage, stream and download podcasts directly to your iPhone and iPod Touch.
Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes
Not only is this a totally lame response, it's actually false. The iPhone's version of iTunes has very limited iPod functionality – it can only play them. In fact, the iPhone has no support for downloading or managing podcasts whatsoever, a gap that Podcaster was hoping to fill.
TUAW notes that some "duplicate functionality" already exists on the iPhone, like Twitterfic's Web browser and the many calculators that are available from the App Store. It's also hypocritical to ban an application like Podcaster, but to allow an application like Simplify Media (iTunes link), which streams your desktop iTunes library to your iPhone, on the App Store. Why one and not the other?
What Apple is actually saying is that Podcaster duplicates functionality of iTunes for the desktop – and that's off limits. Either that or Apple is saying that no iPhone app can duplicate functionality that they're thinking of adding in the future. Since we're may release similar software in the future it's off limits to you. Lame.
If Apple's desktop software is off limits, then is NetNewsWire in jeopardy? After all, it duplicates the RSS reading functionality in the desktop versions of both Mail and Safari. Panic co-founder Steven Frank notes "If Apple adds an RSS reader in firmware 3.0, does NetNewsWire get pulled from the app store for duplicating functionality?"
We've always known that any application that directly competes with one of Apple's bundled apps is off limits. This is why there aren't any third-party email clients, music players or Web browsers for iPhone. But to ban an application like Podcaster for duplicating functionality of a subset of an application that exists on the desktop is totally unacceptable.
The banning of Podcaster actually brings up a great point. Why can't podcasts be downloaded Over The Air and managed directly on the iPhone? Didn't Apple invent the entire podcast ecosystem? Why aren't they tending to their precious technology and advancing it forward with new features? The answer: Apple doesn't care about podcasts because they don't generate revenue.
As a result of Apple's Orwellian heavy handedness Podcaster has been forced underground and has resorted to guerilla tactics. They're now distributing Podcaster by exploiting Apple's Ad Hoc distribution system that allows developers to self-distribute up to 100 copies of their software. Get it while you can: register your email address on their Web site, enter your iPhone unique ID, then send them $9.99 via PayPal and they'll email you a download link.
The developer cautions:
The program should work for a minimum of one year but since Apple can turn it off remotely, the 1 year installation is not guaranteed. We will do everything in our power to keep the program working. All donations are final and cannot be refunded.
Kudos Podcaster. Fight the power.
Update: FAQs, Wiki and issues are posted on the Podcaster Google Code page.